I ended my last gym membership almost ten years ago when Mom moved to San Antonio. Prior to her relocating, I spent an hour or so every day after work doing cardio. I loved swimming laps, spinning on stationary bikes, or jogging on a treadmill. I moved competently through the weight machines like a pro—alternating upper and lower body workouts that left me slim and trim.
That special hour I allocated to myself after a day of work shifted to visiting with my mother when she moved into her apartment. At first, I didn’t really miss the time spent at the gym because David and I still managed to hike to the park. At that time, we had a grocery store in the neighborhood and often walked over to pick up odds-n-ends. Some weekends, we took out our bikes and rode down 1604, crossed I10, and headed to St. Hedwig, making a loop through the back roads. Needless to say, I had way thinner thighs back then!
As Mom’s needs changed, I found less and less time to take care of myself. It amazes me how people always advise me to “take care of yourself” and to “have time for yourself” because that’s almost impossible for a full-time caregiver. You catch moments throughout the day and evening. If you want time with your spouse or other family members, you end up sacrificing even more private time. As Mom’s Huntington’s disease progresses, I’ve found it more difficult to find large chunks of time for any activity. Finding time to write becomes a major feat where I often write only a few words at a time.
When my son decided to move back home temporarily, he made me promise to join his gym, Lifetime. He knew that I’d talk myself out of a workout without a partner to encourage me. With his help, I think I’ll carve out an hour or so three times a week.
My gym membership came with a free consultation with a trainer. The buff ex-Marine asked me for my personal goals. I said I wanted to wear my wedding band again. I don’t care about my dress size or hip circumference. It doesn’t matter if I have a little jiggle in my thighs. And I told him I desperately needed to reduce my stress. He seemed perplexed that I didn’t aim to drop a ton of weight, but I insisted that I’m looking for a healthier me.
This week, my son and I have managed two trips to the gym. Both times I’ve headed for the pool to do laps (not as many as I could do ten years ago, but at least I’m moving). Then I’ve slipped into the sauna to bake for ten minutes, and I’ve followed that with running the hot tub jets over my aching arms and back. Then I take my time dressing and sink into a leather chair to wait for Paul to surface from his routine. I actually sit. I don’t think. I pause. I breathe.
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman